Efforts to provide children with better access to HIV/AIDS treatment are beginning to bear fruit. In 2009, more than 355,000 children benefited from such treatment, compared with only 276,000 in 2008. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), many more lives could be saved. However, treatment needs to be introduced earlier, as early as the first few weeks of life, in fact.
Up to now, very few children under the age of 12 months have been able to receive treatment against HIV. In some countries, screening tests are not even available. WHO is therefore calling for improved access to diagnosis for this particular group, and for this to be done as early as the first four to six weeks after birth.
Without therapeutic monitoring, a third of all infant HIV sufferers will die before their first birthday, and half before their second birthday.
Each year, around 400,000 infants contract the virus from their mothers. To prevent this, WHO recommends that all women living with HIV/AIDS should receive antiretroviral treatment to prevent transmission during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.